Thursday, June 18, 2015

Escalante - Dying on the Vine?

This article was posted on my Facebook timeline. RIP Escalante? I was asked my thoughts.  Here they are. Certainly the headline is drastic, I wonder, is the situation that dire?

  1. Escalante's charm and its biggest problem is its remote location.  It is not a destination but it is visited or driven through by thousands annually. Given this, Escalante does not have amenities to provide its visitors.  For example, Tom and I stayed at Outfitter’s on a Sunday night in the off-season. It was fully booked, the cafĂ©, one of two open, was slammed.  It ran out of most food items and was turning people away. Maybe, if they build it, they will come? I know from living in Kanab, that the low season will not keep you in business. But in Escalante’s favor, it has a captive audience, and needs to attract and retain visitors long enough to create jobs and sustain business and a community. 
  2. Schools - The U.S. birthrate is decreasing, eventually, Utah’s will too.  One father from Boulder told me, there are two things for teenagers to do in that area – chemicals and sex – and that’s why he sent his daughter to school in Salt Lake City.
  3. Whiting closed the Escalante and Fredonia sawmills; both were dependent upon national forest timber. The Steeds re-started a sawmill, and according to the article, a fire was a major contributor to its demise.  No mention if it was fully insured or not, I think not.  A Fredonia sawmill rose from the sawdust and is expanding.
  4. Coal mines are closing not opening.  Utah Power and Light is now a non-entity.  Not sure when it researched the coal and power plant site. Rocky Mountain Power is Utah’s primary power source and it is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
  5. The price of crude oil is low. It’s not financially viable to drill in a remote location when there isn’t much oil, and getting it to a refinery is another issue.  There are only two-lane roads and no rail.
  6. The federal government (we the people) owned the land prior to the creation of the Grand Staircase Monument.
  7. Houses were sold according to the article.  Who bought them?  Perhaps retirees did, or they were purchased as second homes, and neither usually have young families.
  8. Specialized, organic, small-scale ranching and farming are the trend but both are dependent upon soil, climate, and water. 

In short, the residents need to be innovative and not depend on the federal government to support them.  Kanab’s biggest payrolls come from Best Friends animal sanctuary and Stampin’ Up (a home-grown company), not tourism. Moab is another Utah community that “recovered” from a fuel-based (uranium) economy by capitalizing on its natural resources.

Copyright 2015 Joe Writes LLC

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Love Story

NYE 2015 - Copyright Andy Jorgensen
One year ago, Friday, June 13, I waited, somewhat impatiently, at Sugar House Park for my late first date.  We had connected online and decided to meet. I was unsure if it would be pleasant, time wasted, or phenomenal. We weren’t terribly alike but something drew me to him.

He showed up and apologized for being late.  We had been texting so I knew he was coming. I usually meet first dates in the Barnes and Noble Starbuck’s but we both enjoy the outdoors; a walk and talk seemed reasonable.

My date is an unemployed, executive engineer who enjoyed what I considered extreme sports – caving, rock climbing, serious skiing, and alpine trekking - among others.  I am a wimp with bad joints.  I refuse to ski and heights make me uncomfortable, but I’ve been the woman behind the throne throughout my career. That and the fact that I’ve survived working with six or seven sets of engineers - some civil, some not – enticed me to meet him.

We didn’t even make a full loop around the park; I was in a world of hurt due to a sinus infection plus I hadn’t started physical therapy for my inflamed hip tendonitis.  We sat, when I asked and chatted for about an hour, before I could get up and finish the loop. He apologized at the beginning; I apologized at the end, and doubted I’d see him again.

Surprisingly enough, we agreed to meet and hit Snowbird for Joshua James on the plaza. I met him at the Park & Ride.  We simultaneously rushed to each other for a greeting hug; I almost lost my balance. A picnic lunch and chairs were loaded into the Mini and away we went.  We situated and held a couple of chairs for friends. I don’t recommend introducing your barely-met date to friends but at our age, you throw caution to the wind. The band started, he asked me to dance.  Are you kidding? Asking the dancing queen? I was up before he finished asking and we headed to the front.  Joshua said they weren’t a dance band but thanked us.  We danced most of the sets.

We went out dancing soon after.  We were and are great dance partners, bold and innovative, joyful, and forgiving on the floor.  On our fourth date, we sat at the Tin Roof bar and talked until closing.  We moved out to the parking lot and he told me he’d been invited to sail across the South Pacific.  I sighed. I didn’t want to see him go but told him I’d do it if I was him.  He abandoned me for Capt. Bob and the Crescendo.

The Crescendo - Copyright RT Dillon
While he sailed half way across the world, I planned and executed my sixtieth birthday party and retirement.  Next up was the long-awaited first-class adventure to Galapagos and Machu Picchu with my best girlfriends. Upon my return, I launched my writing career and set up a business, networked, and spent time in Southern Utah with my mother. His return date was pushed back.  Throughout our separate adventures, we kept in touch by email.  We got to know each other in an old-fashioned way. 
Machu Picchu, Peru, Oct. 2015 - Copyright Joe Writes LLC

Finally, I picked him up at the airport in Dec. We began our grand adventure with a trip to Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa, Mexico.  Our adventure continues as we check off destinations and plan for more. 

Copyright 2015 Joe Writes LLC

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Pack – Tips from a Travel Junkie

Big Island sunset

 My first commercial flight was in 1973. Starting in 1978, I flew regularly for business and enjoyed champagne flights to Reno and Las Vegas. I’ve also done my share of road trips, cruises, and recreational travel.  I was known for carrying less luggage than all my colleagues - including the male road warriors.  Men can use some of these tips too. Here’s what I’ve learned about packing.
Packing methods are determined by the mode and purpose of travel.  I do not pack the same for all, but I always plan what I’m taking ahead of time.  I start piling items in a designated area a week before I leave.  I add to the pile until two or three days before departure.  I then edit my stack, add forgotten items, and pack, leaving room for those last minute cosmetic and snack items. I always sit on my bag to zip it, you pack lots of air in there!

Straight business

Packing for an overnight trip is simple; expand to an overhead size bag plus a slimmer laptop bag for more than one night away. For an overnight, use a laptop roller bag with a built-in overnighter section.  It fits in the overhead but not under the seat; carry a tote. Black is the wardrobe color. Take a black jacket or cardigan, a pair of pants and a skirt, and two or three tops.  A quick change is nice if dinner’s on the agenda. Wear one combo, the other carefully hang on one hanger, plastic bagged, folded and inserted in the overnight section. Wear one designated pair of shoes, sometimes squeeze in another pair, and if you share my distaste of hotel room floors, include a pair of flip flops. Undies, nightie, and accessories are stuffed either in the tote or overnighter.  To avoid checking luggage, never carry hotel-provided amenities; hotel shampoo won’t kill your hair in one use! Use the smallest containers that fit in that quart sized baggie.  Heavier vinyl bags with a zippers are available. Only carry hair tool(s) you absolutely need.  

Business with recreational travel

Staying at a private residence? Check your luggage so you can carry all your hair products, sundries, casual clothes and shoes. Use a bag that fits in the overhead but check it which frees you to add a shopping bag if needed. Carry an expanding tote bag. Packing casual clothes is different. Take whole outfits – from tanks and shorts to tops and bottoms – that go together and roll them up together.  Again, use small cosmetic containers and toss them when emptied, freeing up space for shopping!  Socks, belts, and assorted other items go into your shoes. Plan ahead by buying clothes that travel well, no ironing time needed.

Machu Picchu, Peru


If you like to dress for dinner every night use the Pullman-size bag which fits dresses, excursion wear, accessories, snorkel gear, hiking shoes, undies, nightie, a large makeup kit, (I bought a big vinyl case in which two smaller cases fit in to carry all hair and skin care items), hair tools, rain gear, and eight pair of shoes. And of course, carry the expandable tote bag which frees you up to acquire treasures. The dresses are on hangers in a wardrobe case or plastic, everything else is rolled. Extra tops, exercise clothes, and swim suits can be rolled and tucked into corners and spaces.


Given the lack of space, if you’re not booking a sleeper, use a backpack.  My niece and her hub have done Europe using trains and carrying only BIG backpacks with light frames and padded shoulder and waist straps.  Sleepers don’t have much room so the softer bags are much better than trying to stash or stack framed, wheeled bags into corners. Roll and tuck those clothes.

Sedona, AZ

Road trips

Road trip and camping packing is about the same unless it includes air travel which complicates things.
Use lightweight, carryon and gear-type bags that can be smushed into a vehicle.  If you have formal wear, hang it in plastic and place in back seat hanger clip or lay flat on top of luggage. Separate shoes into a tote or duffle, clothes rolled into another. Separate the rest of the gear, hiking and snorkeling for example, in separate bags so it’s all together; just grab that particular bag and not have to shuffle about looking for specific items. Use a hanging camping type makeup case. Whether you are staying at a hotel, residence or tent, it can be hung from a towel rack or tree. Again, small containers for personal care products. 

Combo trips – air and road

These are a challenge. I recommend you check luggage to include everything you may need and follow the previous recommendations. Two things I add – a collapsible cooler and smaller tote bag for day trips.

Got suggestions? Let’s hear ‘em!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thou Shalt NOT Jig!

I wrote this post over a year ago and since I've not posted in a year, forgot about it.  It's still timely.  I've enjoyed Swagger rendezvous several times this year and always with the same result. Yes, I did something to my knee at the last Park Silly and have ignored it. Until now.  

I should have to write that down 100 times in small print. Why do I not remember actions have consequences? I'm not 35 anymore. Someone with untrustworthy joints should not be jumping AND jigging for an hour or two.

It's all Alan's fault. Okay, we feed off each other, if I was not so willing to jump and jig and monopolize the dance floor and entice him to keep up with me, would he? Hell yes. He's as nutzo on the dance floor as I am.

Well, Swagger is at fault too. They're so damn good at playing Irish rock, you can't just stand there or dance. It's jiggin or nothing. And I'm a bit competitive so trying to outdance the real Irish dancers who were also trying to monopolize the dance floor just egged me on.

The next day a MeetUp group did Jordanelle Res. No exercise that day except for the upper body workout doing "flag chick" in both boats. Monday was the fatal scuba day. Tuesday was the regular gym rat night. Wednesday and Thursday were spent packing for the aborted Tetons trip. Friday was down. Saturday was spent hiking above Alta and Sunday was the Park City Arts Fest. Poor Mark. I parked on the most northern row of the resort parking lot and made us walk to the top of Main and back plus a few side trips. I got home and did my nightly walkabout. Someone has to tuck in the ducks and feed the mosquitoes.

Monday, I sat on my ass - it's called working - chained to my laptop by the seemingly endless hours of concalls. When I extricated myself from my oh-so-ergonomic Allsteel chair, I limped. A lot. Fine. I cooked dinner - crabcakes, wild rice medley, tomato sauce and Norman vegies (okay vegies Normandy I think the package said). Then it was walkabout time. I pulled out my trusty padded ankle brace from last year and headed up the street. Limping. I leaned against a light pole (such a nice visual) and pulled off the sock. Limped over to the sidewalk, sat down and put it back on. I forced myself around the block and the duck pond.

Hello Instacare. Tomorrow.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Scuba Baby!

Knock another one off the bucket list! I was always intrigued by scuba diving, dive deep and see the fish, the sunken ships, coral reefs,and another world all unto itself.

My pilot friend Patrick told me to go for it and called his friends at Neptune Divers. She said, sure, come in for a scuba experience. He prodded me a bit, I told him I would as soon as I made time. Living Social came through with a deal of the day. Purchased.

There's a hitch. I have the inner ear from hell. I didn't have it until 2000. It could be Meniere's Disease, maybe vestibular migraine. Ask any doc, you get a myriad of opinions. I just learn by trial and error how to deal with it. One pole dancing class put me down for 3 days. It doesn't seem to be allergies, but barometric pressure certainly affects it. So could I scuba?

Finally made the appointment and went tonight with an open mind and little trepidation. My ENT had advised me to medicate well - decongestants, steroid nasal spray and Afrin - prior to submersion. Advice followed, for a change - I'm a strict contrarian.

The group was small, one student had his underwater camera and offered to send me the video. Since I knew I would look like a fish out of water in the water, I declined. We got in, I couldn't get to the bottom of the pool. I surfaced and the instructor wrapped a weight belt around me and the other two females. I guess that extra layer of fat (yeah it's there somewhere) we carry makes us more buoyant. Men sink.

He probably told us to stay in the four ft deep area. I headed for the deep end. I went for the bottom at nine, I made it to 8.5 ft before my ear screamed. I surfaced. Swam back to four and then returned to the deep end and dove down. Ow. Same result. Fine. I went back to the 4-5 ft and picked up the weighted fish off the bottom. I did run into my fellow students a few times and definitely made the video I'll never see.

Come to find out the instructor was a doc too. I told him I found out what I wanted to know. He said, half jokingly, I was supposed to stay in the 4 ft deep area, 9 ft is for the third lesson. Ka-ching I heard. I had fun. I had no trouble adjusting to breathing with a hose. But I got out, handed over my gear, said thanks and made my exit. Note to princesses - the accommodations are bottom drawer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Walkabout II

Tuesday found me wending my way southeast into Arizona. Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam I can't pass up, not because they don't hold memories, they do but it's a great rest stop. Many people assume all southern Utah towns are close to each other. My plan for the first day was the 238 mile journey to Bluff. There's a little thing called the Colorado River and its surrounding canyons that elongate the distance between the two.

I left Page and headed toward the Navajo power plant and on to Kayenta. I stopped for gas and had lunch at a little picnic area thoughtfully provided by the gas station. I was joined by a Navajo man, a Viet Nam vet who had also lived in Cedar City. We chatted as I ate, he told me about his life, his kids and when I prepared to leave, he said, "Sister can you spare $5, so I can get something to eat?" Feeling doubly guilty, I handed him $5 and said, "for food." He was gone when I returned to my car.

There are lots of places to stop, hike and visit - most of them are on the res but my goal for the day - not Bluff - was Monument Valley. It was incredible. I didn't do the tours, just looked over the parapet towards the monuments and watched the traffic snake by underneath, winding about the formations. Next time, I'll hire a native guide.

North of Monument Valley is the teeny, tiny hamlet of Mexican Hat. Sometimes I just know things. I thought about stopping the first night there. I think there's one or two motels. I pulled into the only gas station to make a pit stop. No could do. There was no water in the town, the clerk didn't know why and didn't seem to care, and she turned her attention back to her iPhone texting. On up the road I went. I saw a sign that said Mexican Hat lookout. I did the first of many, spontaneous, quick turns. This one was a dirt road, which I was trying to avoid, given my Acura is a low-rider. But a Prius with Cali plates made the turn ahead of me so I went for it. We both stopped just before the road eroded into sand. We had a great view of how Mexican Hat got its name. The trio piled out of the Prius as I emerged from the Acura. "I figured if you could do it, so could I," I told them.

Back to the road, pulling off to admire and photograph red rocks along the way. I drove into Bluff and out the other side, it's tiny, too but sooooooo cute. The other woman at the motel pool said she kept returning here because it was so magical. I visited the curio shop under the Navajo Twins formation, studied the adjoining greasy spoon joint's menu then drove over to the fort. It was a replica and obviously owned/operated by "the" church. I talked to a volunteer, missionary perhaps, from Salt Lake who knew Kanab people. The gaydar was singing. I exited quickly as I like authentic, in all things.

Checked into the Recapture Lodge It's world-famous because it was featured in one of Tony Hillerman's novels. That's what I read. It was very full and the people gathered outside to laugh and party till the wee hours. I wanted to get up early and get out so I stayed in and relied on chemistry rather than quiet to put me to sleep. Earlier, I wandered across the street to a locavore restaurant and sat at the counter. Two men adjacent asked if I was the bike rider. "The gal in purple?" I asked. I'd seen and remembered her too. I laughed, not me! They said I looked just like her. I took her for a twenty-something so I was doubly grateful.

The next morning, my fellow travelers and I had coffee and breakfast in the lobby. Small world that it is, they knew my friend Blake's former employer, (since college)the owner of Kanab's river running Grand Canyon Expeditions.

On the road again, I headed north, first east to Colorado to visit Hovenweep then later west to Natural Bridges, back east then north through Monticello to Moab. be continued.............


Walkabout while driving. And driving 1570 miles is quite a drive. Alone. Do you ever have those moments of supreme clarity when you just know/see what it is you must do? When I can clear the noise, the dust, and the obstacles from my thought process, it is nirvana.

I've not read Tolle's "Living in the Now" but my walkabout was all about living in the NOW. Being just a little anal, I did look at a map, do some research and made lodging reservations.

The weather was perfect, no rain, and it never got hotter than 83. The kids were still in school, my fellow travelers were my contemporaries. The traffic was light. I combined duty with a selfish desire to knock a chunk off my bucket list. Mission accomplished in both instances.

Serendipitiously, I ran into several friends, cousins and a classmate I've not seen in nearly 40 years in Alton. We made a bet while imbibing at the border bar - the Bucksin Tavern - the bar I was raised in. That's another story. The bet was $100, who'd marry first. He lost and has managed to avoid me. Until now. I called off the bet. I'm divorced, he's still married to the same woman. Kudos to them.

The family gathered at Alton cabin. It was the 27-year anniversary of its purchase. All but my sis were there. Memories are tough here but good times reign. Yes. my bro was under the house doing the ubiquitious plumbing repair as always. It was cold and mom and I kept a fire going all day without venturing out. Memorial Day found us headed south to Kanab. I spent the night in Kanab and had grand expectations of the journey not yet begun.

It was all and more. Originally, I thought I would spend time contemplating, perhaps meditating, lost in thought and come home with a raison d'etre. Not so. I spend an inordinate time alone, lost in thought every day. This was truly about getting away. From everything. I did.

Joy is being in the moment. I knew where I wanted to go, what day I would, where I'd spend the night and probably when I'd get home. Didn't matter if I didn't follow the plan. I was prepared to sleep in the car if necessary and my mother's family taught me well: never go anywhere without food and water. My trunk was full. I only pack light when I have to fly Delta.

......... to be continued........